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For other uses, see Ürümqi County.

Prefecture-level city
乌鲁木齐市 · ئۈرۈمچى شەھىرى
Tian Shan from Ürümqi

Ürümqi (red) in Xinjiang (orange)
Location of the city centre in Xinjiang

Coordinates: 43°49′30″N 87°36′00″E / 43.82500°N 87.60000°E / 43.82500; 87.60000Coordinates: 43°49′30″N 87°36′00″E / 43.82500°N 87.60000°E / 43.82500; 87.60000

Country People's Republic of China
Region Xinjiang
County-level divisions 8
 • CPC Committee Secretary Zhu Hailun[1]
 • Mayor Jerla Isamudin (吉尔拉·衣沙木丁 / جەرۇللاھ ھېسامىدىن)
 • Prefecture-level city 14,577 km2 (5,628 sq mi)
 • Urban 10,245 km2 (3,956 sq mi)
 • Metro 5,057 km2 (1,953 sq mi)
Population (2010 census)
 • Prefecture-level city 3,112,559
 • Density 210/km2 (550/sq mi)
 • Urban 3,029,372
 • Urban density 300/km2 (770/sq mi)
 • Metro 2,988,715
 • Metro density 590/km2 (1,500/sq mi)
Time zone De jure: China Standard (UTC+8)
De facto: Ürümqi Time (UTC+6)
Postal code 830000
Area code(s) 991
License plate prefixes A
GDP (2008) CNY 102 billion
 - per capita CNY 43,211
ISO 3166-2 CN-65-01
Website (Chinese)

Ürümqi (/ˈrmi/, literally "beautiful pasture", from Mongolian), formerly Tihwa or Dihua, is the capital of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China, in the northwest of the country. Urumqi was a major hub on the silk road during China's Tang Dynasty, and developed its reputation as a leading cultural and commercial center during the Qing Dynasty.

With a built up population of 2,988,715 as of 2010 census (6 urban and suburban districts but Dabancheng not yet urbanized) and 3.03 in 7 urban and suburban districts,[2] Ürümqi, whose name means "beautiful pasture" in the Mongolian language of the Dzungar people,[3] is the largest city in China's western interior. Since the 1990s Ürümqi has developed economically and now serves as a regional transport node, cultural, and commercial centre.


Although Ürümqi is situated near the northern route of the Silk Road, it is likely to be a relatively young city. According to Chinese scholars, during the 22nd year of Emperor Taizong's reign in the Tang Dynasty, AD 648, the Tang government set up the town of Luntai in the ancient town seat of Urabo,[4] 10 kilometres (6 miles) from the southern suburb of present-day Ürümqi. Ancient Luntai Town was a seat of local government, and collected taxes from the caravans along the northern route of the Silk Road.

Steppe peoples had used the location, the pass between the Bogda Shan mountains to the east and the Tien Shan mountains to the west, connecting the Dzungar Basin to the north and the Turpan Depression to the south. In the 7th century the location was controlled by tribes of the Göktürks (Turkic Khaganate). In 742 AD, the Göktürk Khaganate split as the Uyghur tribes and the Eastern "wing" of the Göktürks broke off to form the Uyghur Khaganate. Ürümqi lay in the center of this empire until 1220, when it merged with the Mongol Empire under Genghis Khan. After the division of the Mongol Empire, the town then passed into the Chagatai Khanate (also Turkic) where Sufi Islam dominated Ürümqi culture. Around 1670 the Uyghur tribes revolted from the Chagatai Turks and united with the Dzungar tribes to form Zunghar Khanate. Ürümqi remained a small town, and less important than the oasis and Silk Road trade center Turpan 200 km (120 mi) to the southeast.

Thus, little is heard of the region following the Tang Dynasty in the Chinese texts until China's Qing Dynasty vanquished the Dzungar Khanate to the west because it was perceived as threatening China's security. One writer, Wei Yuan, described the resulting desolation in what became northern Xinjiang as: "an empty plain for a thousand li, with no trace of man." After 1759 state farms were established, "especially in the vicinity of Urumchi, where there was fertile, well-watered land and few people."[5] By 1762, more than 500 shops were opened by Chinese migrants to the area of modern-day Urumqi. In 1763, the Qianlong Emperor named the expanded town of Luntai "Dihua" (Chinese: 迪化; pinyin: Díhuà; Manchu: Wen de dahabure fu), meaning "to enlighten." Dihua quickly became Xinjiang's commercial and financial center, boasting many statues also to Guandi, or the Chinese god of war.[6]

Demographically, Dihua was populated with Chinese Muslims from Gansu and Shaanxi, Han Chinese from all over China, and ethnically diverse Bannermen, which included Manchus. Despite the modern Communist redesignation of Xinjiang as a "Uyghur Autonomous Region", Uyghur people and culture are a relatively recent import to Urumqi.[6] Those Qing literati who visited Dihua were impressed by its cultural sophistication and similarity to eastern China. The writer Ji Xiaolan compared Dihua to Beijing, in that both had numerous wine shops which offered daily performances of Chinese music and dance.[7]

The Battle of Urumqi (1870) took place in 1870 between the Turkic Muslim forces of Yaqub Beg against the Dungan Muslim forces of Tuo Ming (Daud Khalifa). With the help of Xu Xuegong's Han Chinese militia, Yaqub Beg's forces defeated the Dungans.[8][9][10][11][12] In 1884, the Guangxu Emperor established Xinjiang as a Province, with Dihua as its capital.[13]

During the Kumul Rebellion the Battle of Urumqi (1933) and the Battle of Urumqi (1933–34) took place between the forces of Ma Zhongying's 36th Division (National Revolutionary Army) and Jin Shuren and Sheng Shicai's provincial forces. At the second battle Ma was assisted by the Han Chinese General Zhang Peiyuan.

Following the founding of the People's Republic of China, on 1 February 1954, the city was renamed Ürümqi, meaning "beautiful pasture" in the Mongolian language of the Dzungar people.

The city suffered unrest in May 1989 with 150 injuries, and was the site of major rioting in July 2009 triggered by violence in Southern China between ethnic Han Chinese and Southern Xinjiang Uyghurs. Official reports of the 2009 riots say that nearly 200 people were left dead, but the actual toll is unknown and disputed. Reports of extensive retaliation against the Uyghur minority have circulated ever since, despite the Chinese government having shut down access to emails and overseas phone calls for over six months.[which?]


The largest city in western China, Ürümqi has earned a place in the Guinness Book of Records as the most remote city from any sea in the world. It is about 2,500 kilometres (1,600 mi) from the nearest coastline as Ürümqi is the closest major city to the Eurasian pole of inaccessibility, although Karamay and Altay, both in Xinjiang, are closer.[14] The city has an administrative area of 10,989 square kilometres (4,243 sq mi) and has an average elevation of 800 metres (2,600 ft).

The location 43°40′52″N 87°19′52″E / 43.68111°N 87.33111°E / 43.68111; 87.33111 in the southwestern suburbs of Ürümqi (Ürümqi County) was designated by local geography experts as the "center point of Asia" in 1992, and a monument to this effect was erected there in the 1990s. The site is a local tourist attraction.[15]

Water supply

Although surrounded by deserts (the Gurbantünggüt in the north and the Taklamakan in the south), the Ürümqi area is naturally watered by a number of small rivers flowing from the snow-capped Tian Shan mountains: the main range of the Tian Shan in south of the city (Ürümqi County), and the Bogda Shan east of the city (Dabancheng District). A network of small reservoirs and canals redistributes the water throughout the extensively irrigated area along the foothills of the mountain ranges.

As the Ürümqi region's population and economy grow, the water demand exceeds the natural supply. To alleviate water shortages, the Irtysh–Ürümqi Canal was constructed in the first decade of the 21st century. The canal's main trunk terminates in the so-called "Reservoir 500" (“500”水库;44°12′00″N 87°49′00″E / 44.20000°N 87.81667°E / 44.20000; 87.81667) in the far north-eastern suburbs of the city (on the border of Ürümqi's subruban Midong District and Fukang City). A new industrial area, called Ganquanbao Industrial Park (甘泉堡工业园), or Industrial New City 500 (500工业新城) was being developed in 2009, west of the reservoir, relying on it for water supply.[16][17] From the reservoir area water is further distributed over a network of canals throughout the lower Midong District.


In Ürümqi a semi-arid climate (Köppen climate classification BSk) prevails, with very large differences between summer and winter, hot summers, with a July daily average of 23.7 °C (74.7 °F), and very cold winters, with a January daily average of −12.6 °C (9.3 °F). The annual average temperature is 6.90 °C (44.4 °F). The city is semi-arid, with its summers slightly wetter than its winters, yet sunny weather is more likely in the warmer months, and relative humidity is the lowest during summer. Its annual precipitation is about 290 millimetres (11.4 in). Extreme temperatures have ranged from −41.5 °C (−43 °F) to 42.1 °C (108 °F).[18]

Climate data for Ürümqi
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 10
Average high °C (°F) −7.4
Average low °C (°F) −16.6
Record low °C (°F) −41.5
Precipitation mm (inches) 10.4
Avg. precipitation days (≥ 0.1 mm) 9.2 7.2 7.2 6.8 6.8 8.0 8.4 6.3 5.0 5.5 6.9 9.6 86.9
 % humidity 78 77 72 48 43 43 43 41 44 58 74 78 58.3
Mean monthly sunshine hours 101.6 128.8 180.5 248.0 283.3 282.7 298.7 301.0 262.6 224.4 127.4 84.3 2,523.3
Percent possible sunshine 35 44 49 62 63 61 64 70 70 66 44 30 57
Source: China Meteorological Administration

Administrative divisions

Ürümqi currently comprises 8 county-level subdivisions: 7 districts and 1 county.

Map # Name Hanzi Hanyu Pinyin Uyghur (UEY) Uyghur Latin (ULY) Population (2010) Area (km2) Density (/km2)
City proper
1 Tianshan District 天山区 Tiānshān Qū تىيانشان رايونى Tiyanshan Rayoni 696,277 171 4071.79
2 Saybagh District 沙依巴克区 Shāyībākè Qū سايباغ رايونى Saybagh Rayoni 664,716 422 1575.15
3 Xinshi District 新市区 Xīnshì Qū يېڭىشەھەر رايونى Yéngisheher Rayoni 730,307 143 5107.04
4 Shuimogou District 水磨沟区 Shuǐmògōu Qū شۇيموگۇ رايونى Shuymogu Rayoni 390,943 92 4249.38
5 Toutunhe District 头屯河区 Tóutúnhé Qū تۇدۇڭخابا رايونى Tudungxaba Rayoni 172,796 276 626.07
6 Dabancheng District 达坂城区 Dábǎnchéng Qū د اۋانچىڭ رايونى D Avanchyng Rayoni 40,657 5,188 7.83
7 Midong District 米东区 Mǐdōng Qū میدونگ رايونى Midong Rayoni 333,676 3,594 92.84
8 Ürümqi County 乌鲁木齐县 Wūlǔmùqí Xiàn ئۈرۈمچى ناھىيىسى Ürümchi Nahiyisi 83,187 4,332 19.20


According to the 2000 census, Ürümqi has 2,081,834 inhabitants, with a population density of 174.53 inhabitants/km2 (452.3 inhabitants/sq. mi.).[19]

Ethnicity Population Percentage
Han 1,567,562 75.3%
Uyghur 266,342 12.79%
Hui 167,148 8.03%
Kazakhs 48,772 2.34%
Manchu 7,682 0.37%
Mongol 7,252 0.35%
Xibe 3,674 0.18%
Russian 2,603 0.13%
Tu 1,613 0.08%
Kyrgyz 1,436 0.07%
Uzbek 1,406 0.07%
Zhuang 878 0.04%
Tatar 767 0.04%
Tibetan 665 0.03%
Dongxiang 621 0.03%
Miao 620 0.03%
Korean 588 0.03%
Other 2,205 0.09%


Ürümqi is a major industrial center within Xinjiang. Ürümqi, together with Karamay and Korla, account for 64.5% of the total industrial output of Xinjiang. Ürümqi is also the largest consumer center in the region, recording ¥41.9 billion retail sales of consumer goods in 2008, an increase of 26% from 2007. The GDP per capita reached US$6,222 in 2008.[20] According to statistics, Urumqi ranked 7th in 2008 by the disposable income for urban residents among cities in Western China.[21] Ürümqi has been a central developmental target for the China Western Development project that the Central Government is pursuing.

The Urumqi Foreign Economic Relations and Trade Fair (Chinese: 乌洽会) has been held annually since 1991 and has been upgraded into the first China-Eurasia Expo in 2011. Its purpose is to promote domestic and foreign markets. The 17th Fair has attracted participants from the Ministry of Commerce and the China Council for Promotion of International Trade.[22]

Xinjiang Guanghui Group (新疆广汇集团) is the largest real estate enterprise and most powerful privately owned company in Xinjiang and is currently engaged in energy and automobile. China CITIC Bank Mansion (中信银行大厦), headquarters of Guanghui, located in one of the CBDs in North Xinhua Road, is the tallest building in Urumqi and Xinjiang; with a height of 229 metres, it is also the tallest in Northwestern China and Central Asia. Zhongshan Road (Sun Yat-sen Road, Chinese: 中山路) has been one of the ten most famous commercial streets in China since 2005. Zhongshan Road has always been the hub of consumer electronics in the city, with the largest computer, mobile phone and consumer electronics market in Xinjiang, including Baihuacun, Cyber Digital Plaza and Fountain Plaza.

As the economic center in Xinjiang, Urumqi has expanded its urban area since the 1990s. The CBDs in the city increased rapidly all around the major districts. Despite the old city areas being primarily in the south, the development in the north part began since the late 1980s. The completion of the new office tower for Urumqi Municipal Government in 2003 at Nanhu Square (南湖广场) in Nanhu Road marked a shift of the city center to the north. Lacking a subway, the city commenced the construction of viaducts for Outer Ring Road (外环路) since 2003, which considerably facilitates transport. Youhao Road (友好路) and surrounding neighborhood, is the commercial center for business, shopping and amusement. Youhao Group (友好集团), the namesake local enterprise, owns a major market share of retails. Maison Mode Urumqi (乌鲁木齐美美百货), open since 2008, became one of the few notable department stores for luxury merchandise in the city.[23] The Urumqi Economic and Technological Development Zone (UETD) located in the northern Toutunhe District, has been a leading base for steel, machinery manufacturing, biochemistry and other industrial innovations.


Ürümqi can be always found to be one of the most polluted cities in China and in the world. Blacksmith Institute mentioned Urumqi in 2007 World’s Worst Polluted Places caused by air pollution along with Linfen and Lanzhou, all in China.[24] In 2008, Toronto Star listed Ürümqi as one of the Top Ten worst places to live in the world due to sulphurous pollution.[25] Heavy haze is extremely common in winter, which frequently affects air traffic. Officials believed that severe winter air pollution in Ürümqi is mainly caused by energy-heavy industries and the outdated coal-firing winter heating system.[26] According to a report by Department of Environmental Science and Engineering of Fudan University, the average PM2.5 and TSP concentrations in the winter of 2007 were 12 times higher than USA standard for PM2.5 and 3 times the National Ambient Air Quality Standard of China for TSP.[27] The sulfur dioxide from industrial emissions mixed with the local anthropogenic aerosol with the transported soil dust from outside the city was the main sources of the high concentration of sulfate, one of the main factors causing the heavy air pollution over Urumqi.[27]


  • The International Grand Bazaar Xinjiang (新疆国际大巴扎, Uyghur: شىنجاڭ خەلقئارا چوڭ بازىرى) is an Islamic bazaar located on South Jiefang Road (解放南路).
  • Hong Shan is the symbolic scenic spot of Urumqi, located in the Hong Shan Park. The highest point of the park contains a three story temple-like structure which houses some spectacular photography of the surrounding area. The third floor contains a model of the city.
  • Glacier No. 1 (一号冰川), origin of Urumqi River, is the largest glacier located near a major city in China.
  • People's Square (人民广场)
  • Nanhu Square (南湖广场)
  • Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region Museum (新疆维吾尔自治区博物馆), which was completely rebuilt in the early 2000s.[28]
  • Heavenly Lake Scenic Area
  • Shuimugou Hot Springs (水磨沟温泉) is located 5 km (3.1 mi) northeast of Urumqi.
  • Xinjiang Silk Road Museum (新疆丝绸之路博物馆) is located right next to the Grand Bazaar at No. 160 Shengli Road. It is located on the fourth and fifth floor of a very large European style building which houses a shopping complex as well. Most of the exhibits have English names as well and some of their guides speak some English.
  • Ürümqi City Museum (乌鲁木齐博物馆) is located at South Nanhu Road 123 (南湖南路 123号).
  • Urumqi Tartar Mosque (乌鲁木齐塔塔尔寺清真寺)is a luxuriously furbished mosque located on Jiefang Road. The mosque is open to female and male visitors unlike other mosques. However, permission must have been obtained prior to visiting the mosque.[29]
  • The monument at the Geographical Center of Asian Continent, in Yongfeng Township, Ürümqi County

Education and science

Urumqi has many educational campuses including Xinjiang University, Xinjiang Normal University, Xinjiang Agricultural University, Xinjiang Medical University and many others.


High schools

Research institutes

  • Xinjiang Astronomical Observatory



Ürümqi is served by the Ürümqi Diwopu International Airport. The airport is one of the five major airports in the People's Republic of China. It is also a hub for China Southern Airlines.


Ürümqi is Xinjiang's main rail hub. It is the western terminus of the Lanzhou-Xinjiang (Lanxin) and Ürümqi-Dzungaria (Wuzhun) Railway, and the eastern terminus of the Northern Xinjiang (Beijiang) and the Second Ürümqi-Jinghe Railway. The Beijiang and the Lanxin Lines form part of the Trans-Eurasian Continental Railway, which runs from Rotterdam through the Alataw Pass on the Kazkhstan border to Ürümqi and on to Lanzhou and Lianyungang. There is also a high-speed rail line under construction, which is expected to connect Ürümqi with Xining and Lanzhou in 2014.


Many roads North & West typically shut down rapidly in the early October period, remaining shut until winter breaks. Trains should remain operational.


Ürümqi Light Rail Transit is currently under construction and expected to open in 2015.

Bus rapid transit

The Ürümqi BRT bus service was launched in August 2011 after an investment of 930 million yuan in an effort to improve urban traffic.[30] There are currently three routes operated, BRT1, BRT2, BRT3, mainly along the north-to-south downtown major roads.[31]


The Xinjiang Networking Transmission Limited operates the Urumqi People's Broadcasting Station and the Xinjiang People Broadcasting Station, broadcasting in the Mandarin, Uyghur, Kazakh, Mongolian, Russian and the Kyrgyz languages.

The Xinjiang Television Station (XJTV), located in Urumqi, is the major TV broadcasting station in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. The local television station for Urumqi city is Urumqi Television Station (UTV)(乌鲁木齐电视台).


China started a bandy development programme by organising educational days in Ürümqi in June 2009.[32]

International relations

Twin towns and sister cities

Ürümqi is twinned with:

City Region Country
Orem[33] Utah  United States
Osan Gyeonggi  South Korea
Peshawar Khyber Pakhtunkhwa  Pakistan
Dushanbe Tajikistan Districts of Republican Subordination  Tajikistan
Bishkek Chuy Province  Kyrgyzstan
Almaty 1  Kazakhstan
Chelyabinsk  Chelyabinsk Oblast  Russia

^1 Almaty is a state-level city of Kazakhstan

Timing of the sun

Because of its location, the sun is 2 hours and 10 minutes ahead of local mean time. During early January the sun will not rise until 9:45 AM and the sun will set between 6:45 PM and 7:10PM. In September and March the sun rises around 8:00 AM, and sets around 7:55 PM. However, in June the sun rises at about 6:25 AM and will not set until 9:45 PM.



  • Owen Lattimore. (1973) "Return to China's Northern Frontier." The Geographical Journal, Vol. 139, No. 2 (Jun., 1973), pp. 233–242.

External links

  • Ürümqi Government Official website

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